Monday, July 15, 2013

A Rose Is a Rose, Part 1 - From Inspiration to Finished Needlework

(This post is the first in a series on designing original needlework, with tips and tricks for getting ideas out of your head and into the the finished needle art of your choice.)

Variegated Rose Framed Needlepoint
Framed Needlepoint, "Variegated Rose," from our Etsy shop
I'm often asked where I get my inspiration and how I work from idea to finished project. There is no single, simple answer to those questions. I love the rhythms of bargello and the disciplined nature of geometric designs. I even venture into abstraction occasionally. But my greatest inspiration comes from Nature. A stroll around my garden will provide me with a host of ideas. What I do with those ideas -- and how I do it -- varies greatly.

Let me give you an example. Every few days J.D. and I make a circuit of the garden to see what is newly in bloom and to plan what work needs to be done. He usually has a camera in hand. I was so enchanted with the photograph he made of a single blossom of one of our climbing roses that I immediately wanted to do a needlepoint picture of it to fit into one of a set of round wooden frames. This is how we made that happen.

Pink Rose in Annake's Garden
Pink rose from the garden
First of all, J.D. printed a color picture of the rose in a scale that would fit the frame. I asked him to do it in a square format, which translates easily to a circular one. After studying the picture, I asked him to make a black and white print and a negative print (not shown) of the same picture. I combined the two monochromatic prints to outline sections of the flower, some of which showed in the negative print but not in the positive one. I also decided what to eliminate from the background. The next step was to make a simple outline drawing of the rose, changing details here and there to get the effects I wanted. I numbered each petal and leaf segment from palest tint to darkest shade.You can see the results of these steps in my process in the accompanying photo, below.

From Photo to Chart, in Stages
Stages in the design, from photo to chart
I prepared my needlepoint canvas (#14 white mono) and ran colored threads horizontally and vertically through the center. Then I centered the canvas over the drawing and traced it onto the canvas with a fine-lined permanent marker. Once it was dry, I rubbed the lines vigorously with a paper towel to pick up any bits of ink that might discolor the yarn and pulled out the centering threads.

It was time to choose the tapestry yarns for the rose and leaves. I didn't follow the colors of the photo exactly, although I kept to the values of light and shade. The yarns I chose were a little closer to lavender-pinks; therefore, the blossom has a rather cooler overall tone than the one in the photo. I often think leaves don't get the attention they deserve. I used grayed tones to match the coolness of the petals, showing more of them than actually appear in the photo.

Rose Needlepoint Closeup
Closeup, showing background and top-stitching
With the color areas of the picture completed, I filled in the background in a neutral color. Finally, I began back-stitching around certain segments with a single strand of yarn. This is traditionally done on counted cross-stitch pictures, sometimes using a single color for all the back-stitching. I prefer to use lighter, darker, or grayer yarns to emphasize the features I'm outlining. Purists won't do this sort of surface stitching on conventional tent stitch. I'm not a purist. I'll not only use back-stitching, but also any surface embroidery that will enhance the canvas work and make it match my mental vision of the piece. J.D. blocked, backed, and framed the picture. He was part of the process from beginning to end and deserves a lot of credit for its creation.

Completed Rose Needlepoint
Finished needlepoint, with its frame
The picture changed a bit at every step of the process, so that the finished work is more my impression of the rose than a slavish copy of the photo. I believe our ideas and feelings should continually evolve and that our work should reflect that evolution.

I do a lot more work from sketches and quick studies in pencil, watercolor, pastels and markers and from handmade charts than I do from photos. However, I've done enough to offer some advice . If you are planning to sell your project, be sure you have not copied anyone's copyrighted material. I work from my own photos and J.D.'s (with his permission, of course). If accuracy is important, take lots of pictures from different angles and distances and in different lighting. Be selective about the parts you use; leave out anything that doesn't improve the picture. A lot of what the camera picks up is not only non-essential, it is distracting. Sometimes less is better.

Next time I promise to include a pattern you can use to make a rose of any color, real or imaginary. Enjoy!


Original Rose Photo from Annake's Garden
Original photo of the rose, also shown on our Etsy shop's About page

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Interview with Our Jewelry Artisan

Carnelian Bead Necklace
Carnelian Bead Necklace with Hand-formed Copper Links
Those of you who have read my earlier posts, visited our Etsy shop's "About" page, or checked out our Gallery site know that Annake's Garden (the business!) is a collaborative effort of several artisans; and while you've heard quite a bit about my -- Annake's -- methods and work in progress, you haven't really met the rest of our motley crew.

This time I'm interviewing one of the Annake's Garden's artisans who makes original jewelry from wire and natural gemstones. And, no, I'm not going to introduce her; for that, you'll HAVE to check our Etsy shop's "About" page!

How long have you been making jewelry?   "I did quite a bit of beadwork as a young adult. Later I taught my daughter and some of her teenaged friends to make beaded jewelry. I've been making wire and gemstone jewelry for about five years now."

Sue at Work
At work on a current project
How did you get started?   "It all goes back to my love of the outdoors. My older son and I like to spend time in the forests and on the hills. While he fished, I'd look for rock specimens. He found that he enjoyed being a “rockhound”, too, and we soon acquired a lot of specimens. I began to use a tumbler to polish promising rocks. Soon we had a large number of tumbled stones. Then a friend sold my son a rock saw and he began cutting slabs from larger specimens. In no time, it seemed, we had buckets full of slabs. I returned to our friend and asked what we should do with them, since the situation was getting out of hand. He handed me some silver wire and a pair of pliers and told me to make jewelry."

Beads and Tools
Some of the artisan's tools and materials
Where have you and your son hunted for gemstones?   "In Colorado, of course, but also in Oregon, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota and Nevada. We've particularly enjoyed hunting in Nevada because the people there were so helpful and welcoming. People have also contributed specimens to our collection from as far away as Panama. We would like to plan future trips to the diamond crater in Arkansas, to North Carolina, and to Alaska."

Sue Doing Something Mysterious
What IS she doing?
You obviously enjoy making jewelry. What attracts you to it?   "The materials themselves. The feel of gemstones is very important to me. Not only do the stones have different colors and textures, they seem to have different temperatures. Stones like garnets, labradorite, and carnelian feel warm to me. Turquoise, jade, and tiger eye --- despite its warm colors --- feel cool. I don't believe I have ever combined 'warm' and 'cool' stones in the same piece, but it will be interesting to try. Lately I have been working also with shell, pearls, and other oceanic materials. Pearls are especially touchable. I love to use copper wire because of its warmth and color, as well as its malleability. I use silver because it is so versatile. In fact, I have plans to combine the two in some future pieces."

Crocheting Wire
Closeup of  the artisan's hands at work
How do you begin a project? Do you make sketches?   "No. I take two approaches. If I have a definite design in mind, I look through my collection, choosing stones that look and feel right for that design. I like to start with a pendant and later make compatible pieces like earrings, rings, and bracelets. Once I have laid out the stones, I cut and shape all the metal pieces. Lastly, I position beads, pearls or other small elements. If I need inspiration, I just get the stones out and “play” with them until a pattern quickens in my mind. It is challenging to see a project through from idea to artifact."

Silver Pendant with Jasper Beads
A simple Silver Pendant strung with Jasper Beads

What part of the process do you find the hardest?  "One of the harder things is to find or make a clasp that goes well with the finished piece. I'm always looking for new clasps and clasp designs. I re-purpose clasps from older and out-of-style pieces. I know a lot of older people who have virtually given up wearing jewelry because they can no longer manage the fasteners. I think that's a shame. For those people I use a lot of magnetic clasps. I also don't mind recycling pieces --- “orphan” earrings, for example--- and incorporating them into new pieces of jewelry."

Crocheted Copper Wire Bracelet with Pearls
Crocheted Copper Wire Bracelet with Pearls
What new projects are you working on?   "I've brought one along to show you how I'm working on it. I've combined my interest in crochet with my interest in jewelry-making. This will be a cuff bracelet crocheted from a fine gauge of copper wire that has small pearls worked into it. I think a matching collar would be another fascinating project. Perhaps I'll do that next."

How do you feel about man-made gemstones? "There are many beautiful ones available and I'm sure technology will produce more. I think there is a need to define what “natural stone” means. Do we include reconstituted and laboratory-grown? I believe that stones actually found in Nature will become increasingly valuable as sources dwindle and access to them becomes restricted. I think we will see more use of agates, jaspers, quartzes, etc. Personally, I prefer to work with natural stones. They feel right to,me, whereas many of the man-made materials do not. It's as if they have no 'soul'."

Any other benefits of your work?  "It's therapeutic. And (laughing), of course, I now have more jewelry than I could ever wear. "

I hope you enjoyed hearing from someone besides me, for a change --  I'll be interviewing more of our artisans in coming months, and may even be able to talk some into guest blogging here. As always, your comments and suggestions are eagerly awaited...

Cowrie Necklace and Earring Set
Cowrie Necklace and Earring Set, now available in our Etsy shop
 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.